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Amidst the many challenges facing the next WHO Director-General, the new WHO head should find WHO’s foremost priority in its most important constitutional pillar: the right to health. The centerpiece of this endeavor should be leadership on the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), the proposed global treaty based in the right to health and aimed at national and global health equity. The treaty would reform global governance for health to enhance accountability, transparency, and civil society participation and protect the right to health in trade, investment, climate change, and other international regimes, while catalyzing governments to institutionalize the right to health at community through to national levels. It would usher in a new era of global health with justice – vast improvements in health outcomes, equitably distributed.

With the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control having served as a proof of concept, the FCGH would be an innovative treaty finding solutions to overcome global health failings in accountability, equality, financing, and inter-sectoral coherence. It would include a global health accountability framework, encompassing, civil society engagement, independent monitoring, and plans for redress, while catalyzing national health accountability strategies, accountability mechanisms, disaggregated data, and community participation. National health equity strategies, pro-poor pathways to universal health coverage, and robust non-discrimination provisions could elevate the voices, priorities, and ultimately power of marginalized populations. The FCGH would include a national and global health financing framework, while reaching beyond the health sector with right to health assessments, public health participation in developing international agreements, and responsibility for all sectors for improving health outcomes. The FCGH would reinvigorate WHO’s global health leadership, breathing new life into its founding principles. It could become the platform for reforming WHO as a rights-based 21st century institution, with badly-needed reforms, such as community participation, new priorities favouring social determinants of health, and a culture of transparency and accountability. The next Director-General should launch a historic effort to align national and global governance for with human rights through the FCGH, bringing the world closer to global health with justice.

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Lawrence O. Gostin, Eric A. Friedman, Paulo Buss, Mushtaque Chowdhury, Anand Grover, Mark Heywood, Churnrurtai Kanchanachitra, Gabriel Leung, Judith Mackay, Precious Matsoso, Sigrun Møgedal, Joia S. Mukherjee, Francis Omaswa, Joy Phumaphi, K. Srinath Reddy, Mirta Roses Periago, Joe Thomas, Oyewale Tomori, Miriam Were, Debrework Zewdie, The Next WHO Director-General’s Highest Priority: A Global Treaty on the Human Right to Health, Lancet Global Health 2016, Published Online, October 13, 2016,